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25) Shedding the Shame Before the 40 HS Reunion

This week’s blog post and Brain BS Podcast is about something very personal to me. It is about something that happened over forty years ago that was still triggering mildly uncomfortable emotions in me. I have been thinking about writing on this topic for a while now, and the invite to my 40th HS reunion is what finally inspired me to do it. I am going to share with you the events of the Ursuline VS Mooney High School football game back in 1978, how I thought about it then, how I think about it now, and why I am no longer willing to feel shame about it.

Okay so many moons ago, my parents went out of town to go on a trip. They left the older kids in charge which meant we basically did not have supervision, LOL, in my family, the parents going way always entailed some sort of party at our house and lots of alcohol. Well, the evening of the football game was no exception. The Ursuline vs Mooney football game was a huge rivalry and the biggest game of the year. We always looked forward to it and got really excited about going to that game.

So long story short, I got hammered. I experienced a total black out at the age of 14 years old. While I do not recall any of that evening, I recall many of the stories that I heard about my behavior after that evening. I heard I was so drunk that I fell in the stands and down the steps. I heard people thought I was throwing up blood because the red wine I drank was misleading. I heard there was a group of guys standing around me claiming that I had to be tripping because nobody could get that drunk. I also heard they were singing She is on a Midnight Train to Georgia. I heard the police got involved but decided not to arrest me or send me to the hospital because my sister was willing to take care of me. (I should point out here that this is my recollection of the evening’s events and stories since then and my filter definitely interprets information in a Maureen sort of way) Other family members or friends might remember all of this differently.

Anyways, I remember waking up at home later in the evening and there was a party going on at our house. I was scared because I could not remember anything that had happened and, I had never experienced a black out before. I remember asking my sister and her friends to tell me everything and then feeling absolutely mortified that it all happened. It was terrifying to me that I could not recollect anything! But because I couldn’t and I had a brain, I came up with all kinds of scenarios that might have happened, who I might have offended, who might have seen me, who might tell my parents, who might have seen me from the school…so, so many! These stories from my brain increased and intensified as I sobered up and it was time to go to school Monday morning.

So, there I was, getting ready to go to school and did not realize it at the time, but my head was full of the worst brain BS! I don’t even remember if my parents were back from their trip by that morning. Mind you, I knew nothing about how the mind works or about myself at that time, so I had no insight into my behavior. I did not have anybody else to talk to who had any insight either! All I can remember now were the feelings I experienced that day while I was walking the hallways at school; dread, shame, embarrassment, regret, humiliation. After school, the feelings changed to fears about getting caught, who would tell my parents, and the possibility that I could get into trouble at school. As it turns out, I never heard anything from the school ,and I was never confronted by my parents so they did not find out either. At the time, I thought it was an amazing gift, but not too sure about that when I look back now.

Now, when I visit the past, I see a 14yo young woman who had major social anxiety, a desperate desire to be “popular”, and no idea how to navigate the emotional and mental challenges of high school. If I was not so aware now, I might think my life may have played out differently if I had more supervision and did not squash this whole event deep down inside me. Luckily for me, I know it all played out exactly as planned and I know that because that is what actually happened. To think my past should have somehow been different is just an illusion of our mind and not useful in any way. Suffice it to say, that football game sort of set the tone for how I went through high school. I became the party girl who was always looking to have a fun time and ready to get in trouble. On the inside, however, I never really felt safe in my body, and my guard was always up. I was always trying to project a cool and positive image of myself instead of being authentic and my true self. I was not willing to feel the uncomfortable emotions of vulnerability or rejection, so I did not dare date or try to go to the dances. In retrospect, my reputation for being a partier made me feel safe because alcohol does have a way of keeping intimacy at a distance.

So flash forward to the present moment and I just got the invite for our 40th class reunion! My first feeling was excitement over the possibility of seeing some of my classmates Directly after that, my mind went to the Ursuline vs Mooney football game. The next thought was how I got drunk on my graduation night and somehow made it home, but my shoes did not. Neither of those thoughts caused me to feel shame or bad about myself. I sort of felt neutral. But then I realized I was resisting the emotions from that night that are still in my body. Once I realized that, I have been working on releasing them and reframing the whole way I look at my highs school days. How about instead of looking at myself in those days with intolerance, I give myself a little grace? Maybe instead of being so judgmental of myself, I opt for compassion instead. How about instead of being so self-centered (like I was the only one parting…I wasn’t!) cut myself some slack and recognize that. Oh yeah, and what if instead of regretting my high school legacy (haha, in my mind anyways), I choose to forgive myself for my limitations. What if the circumstance is actually neutral (my high school days,) and all that matters is how I think about it? What if I get to look back on it and think whatever I want?

Yep, we are back at circumstances being neutral, thoughts trigger feelings, those lead to actions and gives us our results. In this case, I was feeling many negative emotions because I wished I was different in high school and had trouble accepting the version of me that I was at that time. Here is the thing though, my thoughts are optional, so I can revisit the past and reframe it from the present moment whenever I want. The only thing you want to be aware of is if it is a long time ago, those emotions are trapped in your body and might not even be associated with a thought anymore. So while thought work is amazing, we often times have to also do the feelings work also to release emotions that were embedded in our bodies from thoughts we no longer believe.

Okay, so by now I have worked through all my emotions, released them, forgiven myself for being the teenager I was, and can look back upon my younger self with love and compassion. My work was still not done yet though because shame can be a persistent little nuisance. If you recall from previous episodes or reading any of Brene Brown’s work, shame cannot live in the light of day. What better way to ensure that I have truly moved on from my high school days than sitting down, sorting out my mind, and writing about it? The next best thing would be to talk about it from my heart which is what I will do in the podcast episode. It truly is liberating to work through all of the thoughts, release all of the feelings, and love myself as a teenager again. I can look back on the past now and not experience any emotions from high school other than excitement that I am going to see old friends and have a blast at the reunion. Rest assured, I will not black out and I will definitely arrive home with my shoes on my feet.😄 If for some crazy reason I don’t, you can be sure that will be my next episode! 😂 Join me in the Brain BS Podcast to discuss this further.

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